ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Five things to know about the Texas Rangers as they start spring training camp:
THE PRINCE AND CHOO: After scoring its fewest runs in two decades and missing the playoffs for the first time in four years, Texas made significant changes at the top of the lineup. They first made a rare trade of All-Stars, sending second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit for slugger Prince Fielder, who in each of the past three years batted behind that season’s MVP – Ryan Braun in Milwaukee in 2011 and Miguel Cabrera the last two years with the Tigers. Fielder has seven years left on his contract, the same amount of time Shin Soo-Choo got in his $130 million free-agent deal to become the Rangers’ leadoff hitter. Only Mike Trout (564) and Cabrera (562) reached base more than Choo (556) and Fielder (542) the last two seasons. Fielder will now have Adrian Beltre, the AL leader last season with 199 hits, batting behind him. Beltre said it’s Fielder’s turn to win an MVP.
AFTER YU: The Rangers are set at the top of the rotation with Yu Darvish, who in his second major league season was second in the AL Cy Young Award voting. He led the majors with 277 strikeouts, was 13-9 with a 2.93 ERA in 32 starts and was also the first MLB pitcher since 1989 with four 1-0 losses in the same season. But left-hander Derek Holland, who had a team-high 33 starts and career-high 213 innings last season, could miss more than half the season after microfracture surgery on the left knee injured when he was tripped by his dog on the stairs at his home. Matt Harrison was the opening-day starter last season and appeared in only one more game before two operations on a herniated disk in his lower back, and veteran Colby Lewis missed all of last season while recovering from elbow surgery and then needing a hip procedure. Martin Perez and Nick Tepesch, after rotation time as rookies, and Alexi Ogando (7-4, 3.11 ERA in 18 starts and three DL stints), are back. Lefty relievers Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman will likely be stretched out this spring.
CLOSING TIME: All-Star closer Joe Nathan declined a $9 million contract option after saving 80 games the past two seasons for the Rangers. The 39-year-old reliever then got a two-year deal with an option for a third from Detroit. The Rangers still have two former All-Star closers on their roster, but Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria both came back last year from ligament replacement surgery in 2012. Another option is Tanner Scheppers, one of the AL’s top setup relievers in his first full major league season (6-2, 1.88 ERA in 76 appearances).
PRO PROFAR: Jurickson Profar was the youngest player to appear in the majors last season, and in his first career start hit a leadoff home run at Seattle. Profar, who turns 21 the first week of spring training, will get his chance as the starting second baseman with Kinsler gone. Remember, Elvis Andrus was only 20 when he became the Rangers everyday shortstop in spring training 2009 after never playing above the Double-A level. He’s now a two-time All-Star and signed with Texas through at least 2022.
WASH WATCH: Ron Washington is the Rangers’ winningest manager with 611 victories in his seven seasons. He has averaged 91 wins the last five years, when Texas went to its only two World Series. But Wash still has only this season remaining on his contract. Though Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has repeatedly said his feelings are ”as strong” as ever about Washington, no contract extension came during the offseason. His deal was last extended in January 2012, when two years were added through 2014.